A very capable amplifier from a long-standing master of the concept, the AXA35 gets a great deal right. Read our Cambridge Audio AXA35 Review.
Affordable integrated amplifiers have been Cambridge Audio’s forte for the best part of 30 years and, while they have also moved upmarket recently, the AXA35 is the latest in an unbroken line of more terrestrial models stretching all the way back to the original A1. The larger of two integrated amps in the AX Series (after the AXA35, they become receivers), the Cambridge Audio is one of the more classically specified devices in the group.
‘Classical’ is not a polite term for ‘minimalist’ in this case, though. The Cambridge Audio does without a digital section, but has four RCA line inputs, a moving-magnet phono stage and a record out. Around the front you will find another input via a 3.5mm connection. Something else about the AXA35 that is potentially handy is a USB-A socket that can deliver 5V either as a phone charger or potentially as a means of driving a USB voltage source.
As the name suggests, the Cambridge Audio has 35W of power on tap from a Class AB amplifier into 8ohm loads.
Cambridge Audio AXA35
TYPE Integrated amplifier
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 430 x 83 x 335mm
Quoted power output: 2x 35W (8ohm)
Inputs: 4x RCA; MM phono; 3.5mm jack; USB-A
6.35mm headphone output
DISTRIBUTOR Cambridge Audio
No figure is quoted into 4ohm, but it runs uncomplainingly into our 6ohm Acoustic Energy reference speaker. Speaker terminals are a single set of usefully sturdy binding posts. The preamp section uses a rotary encoder for the volume, which works well but does have the minor annoyance of starting at the same fixed level whenever the amp is turned on. This should not be too loud for most listeners, but the AXA35 is the only amp in the roundup so affected. On the plus side, you get full remote control (including the ability to adjust tone and balance controls) and, despite having more metal making up the casework than many other amplifiers here, the overall build is pretty good too.
The Cambridge Audio hits the test level without incident with plenty seemingly in reserve and from there, goes on to impress across the entire test programme. The overall tonal balance is warmer than some of the designs here, but not so much that the performance comes across as soft or dull. Max Richter’s revisit of Vivaldi is sweet and endlessly refined, with Elena Urioste’s violin sounding rich and engaging throughout. There is a commendable level of weight and scale to the performance, too. Some other amps here find more detail and can sound a little livelier, but there is a refinement and sense of rightness to the AXA35 that is very likeable.
This same warmth is present with Drew Holcomb. The manner in which the Cambridge Audio handles voices is generally good, but does have to give a little ground to the more detailed devices here. Holcomb is rich and sonorous, but some of the little dynamics that are present in his performance are missed here. This also affects Ratis Jackson’s performance in Dead Sea, which benefits from a little more energy than the AXA35 can produce. Once again, though,
The tonal balance is warmer than some of the designs here without being soft
there is a lovely feeling of weight, scale and flow to the performance.
With the more rough-and-ready Scarborough Street Fight by The Sheepdogs, however, it is on much firmer ground. Without smoothing things over into sounding boring or safe, the grittiest edges are handled nicely without affecting the general boisterousness of the piece as a whole. The AXA35’s consistent ability to balance refinement and engagement is well judged. There are some other useful attributes, too. The phono stage is respectable rather than great, but the headphone amp is one of the better ones in the group and the full remote control with direct input selection is a luxury even rather more expensive amps don’t have and makes this a joy to use.
LIKE: Refined, spacious and weighty sound; features; build
DISLIKE: Can lack a little excitement; fixed volume level on startup
WE SAY: A capable and well thought-out amplifier that delivers a pleasing blend of refinement and drive